It only takes five bodyweight moves to build abs and strengthen your core

Improve your balance and workout performance with this short Pilates-inspired routine

Woman doing toe taps
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Working on your abs can feel like a chore, doing endless sit-ups and crunches to develop mid-body muscle. If you're after a bit more variety, you can use this Pilates-inspired five-move bodyweight workout to strengthen your core without weights.

Like with many core strengthening exercises, you don't need equipment to start. Although, it's still worth rolling out one of the best yoga mats for support, as you'll be spending most of this workout on the floor.

The short routine, developed by personal trainer Rhiannon Bailey (opens in new tab), uses exercises commonly found in many Pilates classes. This includes a few toe dip and leg lift variations, which keep your core engaged as you move your lower body.

You'll do each core exercise for 30 seconds, creating a 2.5-minute circuit. Repeat the circuit up to three times for an effective ab and core workout that'll help improve your stability, balance, and circulation in just under eight minutes.

It's important to keep your core engaged when your legs are lifted to prevent your back from arching. To get the technique just right and get the most from the session, Bailey advises you "ensure your pelvis is tilted, so your lower back is pinned to the floor (no gap)."

Watch Rhiannon Bailey's five-move core workout

A post shared by Rhiannon Bailey (@rhiannoncbailey) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

Many people do crunches and sit-ups to develop their abs, but there's more to this mid-body muscle than aesthetics. Your core, which includes your rectus abdominis six-pack abs muscles, plays a crucial role in your body and workout performance. 

A stronger core helps develop your balance and stability, improves your circulation, and encourages a connection between your upper and lower body, which can positively affect your posture.

If you want to try the routine or include it in your regular workout, we've listed all the moves you need below. If you want some guidance on the technique, be sure to watch Bailey's demonstrations before you get started. 

  • Tabletop leg lifts
  • Single tabletop toe dips
  • Double tabletop toe dips
  • Tabletop extensions
  • Tabletop toe dip extensions

Not everyone thinks of Pilates as a strength-building way to work out, but you can develop upper body muscle with a no-equipment five-minute Pilates workout. The key to getting results is focusing on your form, lowering slowly, and getting the technique right.

While Bailey's routine is a great way to build your core without weights, if you have one of the best kettlebells to hand, it's worth learning how to do kettlebell swings. This multi-muscle exercise works your whole body, including your core, and boosts your metabolism.

James Frew
Staff Writer

James is a London-based journalist and Staff Writer at Fit&Well. He has over five years experience in fitness tech, including time spent as the Buyer’s Guide Editor and Staff Writer at technology publication MakeUseOf. In 2014 he was diagnosed with a chronic health condition, which spurred his interest in health, fitness, and lifestyle management.


In the years since, he has become a devoted meditator, experimented with workout styles and exercises, and used various gadgets to monitor his health. In recent times, James has been absorbed by the intersection between mental health, fitness, sustainability, and environmentalism. When not concerning himself with health and technology, James can be found excitedly checking out each week’s New Music Friday releases.